Budapest Public Transportation
Most of Budapest's city center and historic districts are suitable for walking. There are pedestrian precincts in downtown Pest and traffic is restricted on Castle Hill, so walking is probably the best way to get around. However, Budapest also has an excellent public transportation system. Glance skyward and you'll see that most of the city's streets are lined with cables, as Budapest has a vast system of streetcars (or trams) and trolley buses. Budapest also has a clean, fast, and efficient subway system (or metro as the locals call it). Outer suburbs are well served by HÉV trains (suburban railway).
Getting around is easy. Although walking is probably your best bet, streetcars 2, 4 and 6 as well as the three subway lines are also good options to get to most places in the city.
M1 or Millennium Underground (yellow line) - runs under Andrássy Avenue in Pest, between Vörösmarty tér and Mexikói út
M2 (red line) - runs east west, between Déli pályaudvar and Örs vezér tere
M3 (blue line) - runs north south in Pest, between Újpest-Központ and Kőbánya-Kispest
M4 - runs between Kelenföldi pályaudvar and Keleti pályaudvar
The main junction where all three subway lines meet is at Deák Ferenc tér in the city center.
Budapest has a vast system of streetcars. Here are some useful routes:
No. 2 - runs along the Pest riverfront connecting Margit hid and Petőfi hid
No. 4 - runs on the Grand Boulevard connecting Széll Kálmán tér (formerly Moszkva tér) and Október 23. utca
No. 6 - runs also on the Grand Boulevard connecting Széll Kálmán tér and Móricz Zsigmond körtér in Buda
No. 19 - runs along the Buda riverfront connecting Batthyány tér and Gellért tér and continues on to Kelenföld
No. 49 - runs between Buda and Pest connecting Kelenföldi Pályaudvar in Buda and Deák tér in Pest
Here is an interesting fact: If you ride streetcars 4 or 6 from the first to the last stop in either direction, you will have taken the world's longest streetcar ride.
Trolley Buses, Buses
Trolley bus service is available on 13 routes in Pest only. Trolley buses are numbered starting from 70 because the first route began operations on Stalin's 70th birthday in 1949.
The majority of people in Budapest using mass transit travel by bus. There are over 200 routes, and express buses with red number signs serve the busiest routes in the city. They travel along the same route as the regular buses with black number signs, but make fewer stops. Buses are also prevalent in the Buda Hills.
HÉV (Suburban Railway) – serving the outer districts of Budapest and nearby towns, like Szentendre and Gödöllő
Fogaskerekű (Cogwheel Railway) – service in the Buda hills
Danube River Ferry Service – since the summer of 2012, a new passenger boat service is available in Budapest between Újpest and Millenniumi Városközpont. The route provides a beautiful commute for locals as well as a great way to get around and see the city from the Danube for visitors.
Riverboats – from May to September, the Budapest Transport Company (BKV) also operates riverboats between Boráros tér and Pünkösdfürdő, with stops including Petőfi tér, Batthiány tér, Jászai Mari tér, Margaret Island and Rómaifürdő. Boats depart approximately every hour and a half between 8 am and 8 pm. Ticket prices range from HUF 250 to HUF 1,000.
Good to know: Public transportation in Budapest virtually ends after 11pm, when the metro, streetcars and trolley buses stop operating. There are some night buses running (marked with "É"), but not as frequently.
Tickets are valid for the metro, buses, streetcars, trolley buses, the Cogwheel Railway and the suburban HÉV lines (only within the city limits), and are available at any subway station. To avoid lines, buy tickets from street stands and newsstands. It is also possible to buy tickets from a ticket vending machine. The basic ticket is good for one trip; if you transfer, you will need to validate a new ticket or use a transfer ticket. Be sure to validate your ticket using the orange or red ticket-punching machines as controllers may ask to see your ticket, and will fine you for having an invalid one. Some ticket-punching machines on buses and streetcars are manual. Be sure to insert your ticket into the top slot and pull the punching mechanism toward you.
You can buy single tickets, transfer tickets or get a discount with a 10-trip coupon book, which contains 10 single tickets. Day and tourist passes offer a good deal for visitors, as they allow unlimited use of the public transportation system and are often packaged with free admission to many museums and attractions. The Budapest Card is one such option. Cards can be purchased with a 24-hour (HUF 4,900), 48-hour (HUF 7,900) or 72-hour (HUF 9,900) validity. All cards include unlimited travel on public transportation, free entry to several museums, two free walking tours, and 10%-50% discounts at participating baths, museums, restaurants and spas. The value offered by the card depends on what you plan to do in Budapest. For instance, if you intend to use public transportation and visit quite a few attractions and museums within a given two or three-day period, it's worth the price.
Ticket vendors rarely speak any languages aside from Magyar, so a little provisional sign language may help. However, detailed information about tickets and transportation is usually available next to their booths in English, French and German, along with route maps.
Ticket prices in 2014
Single ticket (vonaljegy) - HUF 350
Transfer ticket (átszállójegy) - HUF 530 (valid for a single journey with one transfer)
One-day travel card (napijegy) - HUF 1,650
Three-day travel card - HUF 4,150
Seven-day travel card - HUF 4,950
Ten-trip coupon book (gyűjtőjegy) - HUF 3,000
There are passes available for longer periods (14 days - HUF 7,000, monthly - HUF 10,500, etc) but they do require photo ID. ID's, valid for one year, are issued at metro stations. You will need one passport size photo, available at photo booths located next to the ticket vendors. A set of 4 prints cost HUF 1,000, but you get to keep 3. More information is available at www.bkk.hu.
Having a ticket doesn't entitle you to ride public transportation. You must validate your ticket at a ticket-punching machine when starting your trip. Transfer tickets must be validated twice. First, when entering the system and also at the point of transfer, using either ends of the ticket. Hungarians may understand the way the ticket system works; however, it's still the source of the majority of complaints received from tourists. They buy their tickets in good faith but forget to validate them and have to pay a substantial fine when caught. It's an awful system by design, as you are able to enter/use all public transport without validating your ticket, until an undercover controller stops you. All forms of public transportation are frequented by controllers, so you are bound to run into one sooner or later, and they are not very pleasant to deal with.
Budapest shouldn't be remembered for such an experience. After filming in the city, Warren Beatty was asked by Jay Leno on the Tonight Show what he had thought of Budapest. Unfortunately, the first thing that came to his mind was being fined on the metro for forgetting to validate his ticket.
Taxis can be fast and cheap in the city, especially late at night when there is limited public transportation. Taxis can be hailed on the street, but it is cheaper to call ahead of time. Residents in Budapest rarely flag down taxis in the street and our advice is to always call one of the recommended companies.
According to a new taxi regulation passed by the Municipality of Budapest on September 1st 2013, all licensed taxi drivers must adhere to a new fare structure and charge the same price.
Base fare: HUF 450
Price per minute: HUF 70
Price per kilometer: HUF 280
The following are the phone numbers of reliable taxi firms charging fair rates, not 'tourist tariffs' (operators are English-speaking).
Taxi Plus (+36 1) 200-0000
Citytaxi: (+36-1) 211-1111
Főtaxi: (+36-1) 222-2222 - the officially appointed taxi company to service the airport
Budataxi: (+36-1) 233-3333
Tele5 taxi: (+36-1) 355-5555
Rádiótaxi: (+36-1) 377-7777
Budapest's Main Railway Stations
KELETI Pályaudvar or Eastern Railway Station is the largest railway station in Budapest. Located on Baross tér in District 8, Keleti is accessible by subway (M2) and buses No. 5 and 7.
Key destinations from Keleti include: Budapest-Győr-Vienna, Budapest-Hatvan-Miskolc, Budapest-Békéscsaba-Arad and Budapest-Kelebia-Beograd.
NYUGATI Pályaudvar or Western Railway Station is one of the oldest railway station in Budapest. Located on the Grand Boulevard at Teréz körút 55-57 in District 6, Nyugati is accessible by subway (M3) and by streetcars No. 4 and 6.
Key destinations from Nyugati include: Budapest-Esztergom, Budapest-Danube Bend, Budapest-Vác and Budapest-Szeged.
DÉLI Pályaudvar or Southern Railway Station is the main railway station in Buda. Located in the vicinity of Castle Hill at Krisztina körút 37 in District 1, Déli is accessible by subway (M2) and by streetcars No. 18, 59 and 61.
Key destinations from Déli include: Budapest-Pécs, Budapest-Győr and Budapest-Lake Balaton.